(…the things you start remembering as you tell a story again. It’s like hopping back into the scene of your favorite adventure…)
So the second part of this trip, for whatever reason, is a little more fuzzy to me. I don’t know if it’s because we did a lot of small random things during this second half, instead of a few really big things like the first half of the trip. So, I’m going to change how I tell this part. Instead of me going through a step by step of our last two days, I am going to talk about some key points. I thought about it for the last few days and I feel like this is the best way to end the story.
So here’s the quick catch up: Mark and I spent two days camping in Iceland on the southeast coast of Iceland. We found a campground next to Seljalandsfoss and made that our home base. We spent two days exploring waterfalls, man-made hot springs, and cliffs overlooking the ocean. We had dinner at a local restaurant in a small town and had KFC for lunch one day. We came to the conclusion during the end of the second day that we were going to get a hotel and spend time around Reykjavik for the last two nights of our trip.
So we spent the morning of day 3 unpacking the tent and saying goodbye to one of the coolest places I’ve ever camped. I was starting to get used to the sound of waterfalls putting me to sleep.
I did forget one thing that should have been in the part 2 section, so I’ll share it now. It’s just a quick funny story. The night before, it was late and Mark and I decided to use the bathroom one last time before going to sleep. This meant us leaving our tent and going into the building where all the facilities were located. There are no lights at the campground; we had to use our phone lights to get to the building. So on our way to the building, Mark didn’t see where he was going, and tripped over one of the stakes holding up somebody else’s tent. Mark went flying through the air and the person’s tent shook. He apologized but there was no response. To this day, it still makes me chuckle and how I feel bad that this person probably woke up to their whole tent flapping around and some guy outside rolling around on the ground.
But anyway, back to day three.
So we got in the car and started driving back to the southwest coast. On the way to Reykjavik, we started researching places we could stay. We settled on a hotel towards the outskirts of the city; I forget the name of it. It was a white building and had street parking in front. I backed the car into the parking spot, which was quite a feat. Maybe I was finally getting the hang of driving that manual transmission. We walked into the hotel and told them we wanted a room for two days. The woman at the desk got everything together for us and said the room would be ready closer to 3:00. I think the time was around noon. Mark asked if I wanted to drive into downtown Reykjavik while we waited. I got nervous. I did want to explore the city, but I was afraid of driving through it. I also found a good parking spot and I was afraid as the day went on, it would be harder to find a spot to park the car. He told me we’d eventually have to drive there so I might as well do it now.
We didn’t drive; in fact, we never drove though downtown Reykjavik. Instead, we walked both days (this was definitely not Mark’s decision). We decided to explore the immediate area for the few hours we had before our room was ready. We went into a local grocery store a few blocks down the road and looked around. It’s probably a weird thing to enjoy, but I love checking out grocery stores in other countries. It’s exciting to see all the different types of food I can’t get back in the U.S. I was 16 years old when I went to Mexico for my Aunt’s wedding and the resort where we were staying had little boxes of cereal (Frosted Flakes, Fruit Loops, etc.) for breakfast. They were all written in Spanish. I took a few boxes because I thought they looked fun, and I still have them to this day.
So we bought some snacks to hold us over until our room was ready. Once our room was ready, we went to drop everything off. We had asked for a room with two beds. Once getting in the room, we realized that they, indeed, gave us two beds; two beds that were literally right next to each other. You’ll see this in the photos below. Our television also didn’t work. But besides these two things, everything else was fine. It did have more amenities than the tent, so that was a plus.
We spent the next two days exploring Reykjavik. Just to put things into perspective, there are around 300,000 residents in Reykjavik. This is where most of the population on Iceland lives. Monmouth County, New Jersey has about 600,000 residents. That is about double Iceland’s largest and most populous city. Walking around Reykjavik was like walking around a small town; think Princeton or Red Bank NJ. We visited a church in the city, called Hallgrímskirkja, which is the tallest building in Reykjavik standing at about 244 feet.
Construction on the church took 41 years, starting in 1945 and ending in 1986. We stood in a small elevator to get to the top. The view was absolutely incredible and was one of my favorite moments from the trip. There were windows at the top where you could see every side of Reykjavik.
The streets of Reykjavik weren’t very crowded, at least when we went. There were lots of fun places to eat and hang out. One of the days, as we were walking on the sidewalk with our cameras, a man approached us. He asked us if we wanted to put our cameras to good use. Mark and I looked at each other, apprehensively. He told us there was a garden, not much further than the church and it had lots of flowers and statues. He also started telling us about Viking helmets. He started to explain that the helmets you see in films are not accurate. He told us the design with two horns on top wouldn’t make any sense in a fight. If a sword caught one of the horns, it would knock the helmet right off. He also offered us alcohol. We politely declined and continued on our way. We did find the garden he was talking about. It was very pretty and I did get lots of nice shots there.
While exploring the city, we enjoyed some fish and chips down by the docks. These were some of the best fish and chips I’ve had. I remember it being a beautiful sunny day. Mark and I filmed a few videos while we ate. He was an early influencer for an app called musical.ly, which later became TikTok.
The last night of our trip, in typical fashion, we ordered Domino’s. We were hungry late at night and it was the only place open. Domino’s in Iceland tastes just like Domino’s in America, except for a few differences on the menu.
At this point, it’s been about two years since I’ve gone to Iceland. It started off as a point where I wanted change in my life, and it still has had that same effect. The person who I was before that trip and the person I was when I got back are very different. And I’m not saying that I needed to go see something new, somewhere far away to make that happen. But I did see something new in myself while on that adventure. I challenged myself and was angry at myself for some of the decisions I had made. It was a terrible idea to get a car I didn’t know how to drive. But I wouldn’t have the stories I did if I played it safe.
Somebody once told me that I’ll never grow if I don’t step outside of my comfort zone, and I try to live my life by this as much as possible. There was a time in my life when people asked me what I liked to do, outside of school and work. I never thought I had a good answer. I would tell them I watched movies and played video games. I still watch movies and play videos games pretty frequently. But all I ever did was watch somebody else’s story. I would pick up a controller and become another person; somebody fictional. The whole time I wanted to be me. Traveling gives me an opportunity to explore something that is the most important in my life: myself.
When I’m old one day and I have my grandkids asking me about my life, I want to be able to take them on wild adventures. I want to tell them about how I scaled a cliff in a car I didn’t know how to drive. I want to talk to them about sleeping next to waterfalls. Maybe I can open their eyes to the wonders of the world.
Iceland was just one of the amazing adventures I have gone on, and being able to write about it has almost, in a way, made me experience it again. Below I have added some extra photos from my phone throughout the trip that I didn’t include in the first two posts. Hopefully it’ll add an extra dimension to everything I talked about.
Until next time!